Friday, October 07, 2005

Almost Forgot

I totally forgot to blog it, on the article I wrote a while back for I came in 4th place! They said they would send me some Dual Layer DVD Burners. Yay!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Geek Wagon Vs Rita

I think it's safe to say that Rita, or any other hurricane for that matter, will never come face to face with the mobile might of the Geek Wagon. It's been over a year since the Wagon has hooked up and gone somewhere else, and to be honest I was glad to see we were in a recommended evacuation area because it was long past due for the Geek Wagon to roll up the awning and ride. And ride she did, for 382 miles.
We did not originally intend to travel that far for a hurricane, but the combination of the last Gulf Coast hurricane and that most humans live in fear, every trailer park between Corpus and San Angelo was booked. This made me wonder if I lived in fear like most humans do? After 382 miles of contemplating this idea I came to the conclusion that, although I evacuated like everyone else, my plan was the same well before Katrina hit New Orleans. The plan has always been simple no matter where the Geek Wagon resides. Natural disaster = Geek Wagon goes somewhere else. Doesn't matter if it's an earth quake, tropical storm, volcano, or a category 5 Hurricane named Rita. I see it as a simple plan that can only be executed by the mobile life style.
In the end it turned out Corpus didn't even get a drop of rain from Rita, and I was criticized for my decision to leave (by the few that didn't leave). I'm glad I did though. I got a four day vacation on a weekend that there was nothing going on where I work. This means no one called me to ask me questions while I was on vacation, and this was only possible because most everyone else wasn't in Corpus just like me.
For the record, San Angelo is a great town. It's not huge like San Antonio, Houston, or Corpus, and it's not a backwards hick small town either. The reason it was really great, at the moment I'm writing this, according to, Corpus Christi feels like 84. Keep in mind this is 8am too. San Angelo feels like 65.
I'll post pictures of the trip as soon as I get a chance.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Homemade DAS Keyboard

Want the new DAS Keyboard but don't have $80? Never fear because for a measly can of semi-flat black spray paint, an old keyboard, and five minutes of your time you can make your own!

No disassembly of the keyboard is required, just follow the instructions on the spray can and after 15 minutes of dry time you'll be just as cool as those punks in Maximum PC who get to build the dream machine. For best results use primer first.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A Couple of Pics

I know it's been a few weeks, and I have interesting things to write about. But for now here are some pictures that made me chuckle.

I have to wonder about the hole
that says "do not cover this hole."

I've always liked a good fake Windows message.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Even More Interesting Reading

Well that all depends on your definition of interesting I'm sure, but for the first time ever I threw out an article and put it up. Exciting stuff for me because I'm kind of of a dork, but in any case, I did take a screen shot of the front page while my article was there. Perhaps this will make a future Geek Memorabilia entry. Here is a link to the article.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Interesting Reading

For those of you who are not familar with Bill Hilf he's Microsoft's Linux Lab Manager. I too was surprised that Microsoft had a Linux Lab, but one thing is for sure...that has got to be an interesting job.

Recently the Slashdot crowd was asked to submit questions for Mr. Hilf, and this is his response. This makes me see Microsoft in a different light.

Monday, August 08, 2005

A Winning Case Mod Design

PBS children's programming reminds us, we are all special and unique. Thus, computer enthusiasts strive to extend a uniqueness to their computer cases in the form of case modifications. Computer cases have come a log way since the boring beige boxes of yesteryear. According to Wikipedia it was the release of the iMac, who's design was quite different than the beige box, that spurred mainstream case modification. In the early days, case mods, as they're now called, were undoubtedly difficult. Today, there are companies which make the majority of their profits suppling hardware enthusiasts with a variety of pre-modded computer cases and accessories. It's safe to say, pretty much everyone and their mother sports a silver case with a window and some blue lights, or maybe a black case with red lights. In a world of pre-modded cases, it's becoming increasingly difficult to create something truly unique.

So what is the formula for an award winning case mod? Other than determination, there isn't any. Creativity is the key and the bane which makes case mods so difficult for the average logical left-brained geek. For them there are pointers and tips to help stir the creativity cauldron, and even possibly help inspire totally kick ass mods.

Like any artist one has to decide up front what the goal is. For example, the Half-Life 2 case mod had a very clear theme. The case mod itself is complex, but there was a focus. It's very easy to look through and come up with great ideas, but it requires a goal and some focus to weed through these ideas. Obviously PC games are an easy choice, but instead of trying to incorporate the Quake series into a case mod it would be a better idea to focus on just one of the games in the series or perhaps a specific level in a game. It doesn't just have to be PC games either. Almost anything anyone could find themselves interested in can be incorporated into a case mod. The Bender case from Futurama springs to mind. However, creativity doesn't always spring from PC games, TV shows, movies, or books.

There is also a sense of creativity that encompasses a need. How often have you been in the middle of a fast paced round of gaming and reached for your Mountain Dew only to discover it's empty? A case mod with a built in cooler would be an alternative to getting another soda without the risk of being fragged while AFK.

After the idea comes the easy part; because with enough time, resources (as in money), and access to the Internet, anything is possible. First, an adequate work space is in order. Preferably a place with a work bench; the work space can vary depending on the case mod. Definitely read safety instructions and use some common sense. If most of the mod can be done with duct tape and glue, a kitchen table will be fine. More aggressive case mods, like that which require Bondo, will need a well ventilated work space. Don't try accomplishing what cannot be facilitated. This can lead to a lack of quality in the workmanship.

Whether the case mod is created from an existing computer or done on a computer while it's being built, parts are going to be purchased. Definitely read up on those parts beforehand and be sure they can do what you want them to do. A bountiful source of information is often located on forums; they are a wonderful place to see where others have succeeded or failed. When purchasing computer components make judgments not only on their specifications but their looks. Specifications are more important, but it's guaranteed a DFI LAN Party will look better under a black light than anything Abit or Asus puts out. If the spec sacrifice is small then it may be wise to chose what is aesthetically pleasing. The majority of the time a case mod is incorporated into a pre-existing computer. In that case (pun not intended), open the computer up and determine what is usable before ordering new case mod parts. It may make a difference on the accessories ordered.

Other than that, have no fear. Do not be afraid to cut and splice some wires just because they are apart of the 600 watt modular power supply that cost a small fortune. The best case mods usually cannot be undone. Case mods only serve two real purposes: to be the envy and center of attention at the next LAN party, and because it could be done.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Google's Start page

I would like to start this post by saying, "I hate Internet Explorer!" Now I will write my post all over again...

Google's got a start page! I don't know how long it's been around, but it should definitely be peeped. It can be found at You can sign in and customize it by using your gmail login, or you can create a Google account.

A little Windows XP Security

I've known about this CD image (link is a download) for a while and have used it successfully on many customers computers. Here is the website associated with it with more details and all sorts of helpful information. Bottom line, it's a bootable CD that will allow you to reset or change Windows user passwords.

The CD is usually my last resort. First thing I like to try is logging on to the administrator account. Most computers have an administrator account that has never been logged into. This is especially true with OEM (Dell, Gateway, etc.) computers. Not only have these accounts never been used, they've also never been set up, and more importantly they've never been password protected.

One way to get to this account is boot the computer in safe mode. This can be achieved by holding F8 during bootup. Safe mode will bring you to the friendly Windows Welcome screen showing, not only accounts on that computer, but the administrator account. If safe mode isn't your thing just hold ctrl+alt+delete at the welcome screen until the traditional windows login prompt comes up. The administrator account will be accessible simply by typing 'administrator' into the user name and leave the password blank. No welcome screen? Just go down to the start menu and log off. If the computer only has one user account Windows will log onto that account without showing the welcome screen. In most cases that will get you into the system without having to remove others passwords.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Google's Response

I got a not so exciting pre-generated response back from Google, but I'm sure someone there knows they rock now.

Hi James,

Thank you for writing to Google about our applications guidelines. While we're not able to respond personally to every note we receive on this topic, we're very interested in what you have to say and do read all of our mail. We appreciate your taking the time to write us.

The Google Team

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Honesty is the Best Policy

I recently read Google's Software Principles and to put it bluntly I was touched. A company the writes software and actually cares about the people that use this for real? Let me hit some of the highlights.

We believe any situation where multiple applications are being installed should be made very clear to users, so that if you were to ask them several months later - "What's this?" - most will know where it came from and why it is there.

Once an application is disabled or deleted, it should not remain active or be automatically enabled later by itself or another application.

This information should be presented in a way that a typical user will see and understand -- not buried in small print that requires you to scroll. For example, if the application is paid for by serving pop-up ads or sending your personal data to a third party, that should be made clear to you.

These are directly copy and pasted from Google's Software Principles. I feel like a very fortunate individual to work for an honest company. Google is clearly an honest company, and maybe one day other company's will follow these foot steps.

I was so touched by Google's Software Principles that I was compelled to send them an email letting them know they rocked.

I totally read your software principles policy and I wanted you to know that Google rocks. You may already know this, but I had to say something on the off chance you didn't.

That was my email. I'll post something here if I get a reply.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Little known power supply facts

Today I learned some interesting things about power supplies and basic electrical precepts. Like most I already knew that the yellow wires are 12 volts and the red wires are 5 volts, and for your average case mods that's all you really need to know about. Keep in mind the wire colors I talk about are in a normal industry standard power supply. I've come across a lot of Dell power supplies that use orange as the 5V line....weird.

When I purchased a set of LED feet for a case mod I didn't give it a second thought when I started cutting and rewiring to incorporate the feet into my rig. The feet plugged into the 5V line; and, to my surprise, there were small resistors in line with the wire I had cut that reduced the 5V to 3.3V (I thought I was cool enough to have 5V LED's). So those LED's didn't last long. In fact they lasted all of about a minute before they burnt out, but for that minute they were so cool. The orange wires that go to the rarely used ATX auxiliary connector (looks a lot like the old AT style power connections) are 3.3 volts. Now not only do I not have an excuse when I burn out LED's I finally have a use for that cable.

I found some more information at this link.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Geek Memorabilia #4: My First USB Flash Drive

I got my first USB Thumb drive from a guy who was on vacation in my trailer park. He was a geek and he seemed impressed by my geek skills and it was all very flattering. The company he worked for (large oil company out of Houston) had recently supplied him with a fancy new 1GB Thumb drive, so he gave me his old cheesy 64MB model.

I've learned a lot about the wonders of flash memory and am continually impressed with the growing number of opportunities they provide. At first I only used it for transferring small files. Then I started to keep working files on it and was able to edit those files at work and at home. I remember thinking that I forgot how big 64MB's can be when working on small things like documents, spreadsheets, pictures, and lego models.

Recently I was introduced to flash memory applications like Portable Firefox and Portable Thunderbird. At first glance I saw little use for these applications, but then it hit me...I will never have to remember my online user names and passwords again (or keep them in an easy to use text file). Portable apps and a nifty little program like Private Disk it won't even matter if I lose my flash drive; both digital thieves and nosy people alike will be put in their place with killer encryption.

I know now I'm only scratching the surface of all the cool things I can do with USB flash drives, but this post isn't to introduce my would be readers to the uses of solid state storage mediums. It is instead to honor my first, and now retired, USB flash drive. Not only did this 64MB wonder turn me on to this new world of portability, but it showed me honest to goodness solid state resilience. What I mean by solid states is that there are no moving parts. As one can see by my two pictures I did not take care of this particular piece of geek memorabilia like I should have. Even after two trips though the washer and a case melting dryer experience, this bad boy still functioned. In fact, not only did it still function, I was surprised to find my data was safe and sound.

I regret not taking care of this flash drive like I will the next. An unsuccessful image search on goolge for how it originally looked showed me how rare of a find this gem was. In honor of this flash drive I could only replace it with the best, and now that have more portable megabytes I hope to play with all new and improved flash drive toys. First on the list is Portable

Saturday, July 09, 2005

New Goals

Work hard, live frugal, and buy a house; this is the plan of attack my girlfriend and I put into place on the drive home from Houston after the July 4th holiday weekend. As a guy/geek/gamer, I see wonderful advantages to a house over an Airsteam. The most obvious being LAN parties. We don't have a lot of money to fill a house with furniture, but tables, chairs, computers, and friends shouldn't be a problem. What better way to break in a new home than create an unmanageable web of CAT5? The geek in me wants a place to work on PC's. A spare room or garage that I can use to test out new toys and put some killer case mod ideas into action.
Trailer life is a lot of fun, I don't plan to sell the Airstream to meet our new house goal. When it was just me, and I didn't know anyone, trailer life had more advantages. Now as my girlfriend and I grow older it becomes more of a hassle to entertain the occasional guest in the limited space of a travel trailer.
I know my girlfriend has completely different ideas for our home. It is interesting to me our overall goal is the same, but our reasons vary quite drastically (i.e. I want to case mod she wants a garden).
Our short term goals, work hard and live frugal, are already in action. We've decided to do simple things like drink coffee in the morning instead of Mountain Dew because coffee is $3.29 a can and last weeks where 12 cans of soda cost $3.49 and lasts a day (no exaggeration). I've finally, in all my 25 years, learned the value of coupons. In an effort to work hard I've started doing laundry on a more regular basis, paying bills on time, and even playing with the idea of a second job.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Tuesday Morning scheduled Maintenance

I wonder why it is every Tuesday morning I am awake at 6:30am and in a mood to play World of Warcraft. Partly, I'm sure, it's because I'm always in a mood to play World of Warcraft, but weekly maintenance just bites.

It's no secret I can't spell. On my blog posts were there are no misspellings readers can be assured I spent a lot of time running that post through multiple spell checkers and occasionally my girlfriend just to show that I have at least a little mastery of my language. This bring me to one of the only complaints I have about The spell checker sucks. In Microsoft Word I could type in just about any concoction of letters and not only get the word I'm looking for but just about every variation on that word. In Writer I type in "Maintinence" and get everything from "Incontinences" to "Pertinence." Not a single alternative even starts with a M! Were as a quick Google search on "Maintinence" will quickly result in, "Did you mean: Maintenance?" (Side note: the blogger spell checker finds "Incontinences" as wrong even though I copied and pasted from OOo. Are you seeing now why it sucks to not grasp how to spell?)

Don't get me wrong, is great. In fact recently pointed me to this compare and contrast between OOo and MS Office. Despite the review, OOo is now my official office suit at home and work.

And speaking of cool things I've found on slashdot, allow me to spam some linkage and attempt to compensate for the lack of reading material on my blog.

Homebrew AC - This just looks like a fun project and being that I live in South Texas I'm all about ways to keep things cool while conserving kilowatt hours.
Who Will Google Buy Next? - I would like to publicly announce now that if Google is ever in the market for me I'm all about selling. This is a cool article because it also gives a brief synopses of who they've already bought. I didn't realize it was so many companies.
Google Site Ranking Secret - While I'm on Google, here's some recently released facts on how their site ranks work.
An Old Laptop Use - You can teach old laptops new tricks. - This site has an informative web comic about the history of keyboards promoting the Dvorak layout.

Monday, June 13, 2005


The steam has really seem to run out on my blog. Not that I don't want to post; it's just that when I'm at work I usually work, and when I'm at home I play WOW. Warsong Gultch will be the end of me I swear.

In any case I did learn something cruel and unusual I had to post about. Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is a phobia like any other and the link is to a real website with the intent to help those who suffer from this phobia. It's the fear of long words. I feel really bad for people with this phobia.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Captains Log: June 1, 2005, 20:20

The lack of updates in my blog is not because of a lack of ideas, I swear. In fact I'm going to use this post to do what I don't normally do and talk a little about personal things. Like everyone else in the world I've been busy; I've been busy with both work and play. Musical computer parts have been the day to day story both at work an at home. Musical computer parts means one of two things; things are breaking or something is new. In either case change is good...even when it doesn't seem to be. I also took last weekend to go visit family in Houston. It was a blast.

Metaphysical Economics has been foremost on my mind. Due mostly to some recent events. I'm going to have to study this further with field tests and possibly make a post or two about it.

With other future posts, more geek related, I'm working on a post about what you can with a computer without a hard drive. I think most readers will be surprised. Also, I've had a Star Trek captains post in the works since my last Star Trek post reaped so many interesting comments. Unfortunately for it to encompass everyone fairly I need to finish watching the original series. The basic idea is to compare and contrast Archer, Kirk, Picard and Sisko, and use examples from the episodes. Anyone (I'm thinking you anonymous) who would like to throw in their two cents is welcome; just keep in mind this is only a comparison of the captions and not the shows. As of now I'm judging them on Intelligence, Compassion, Loyalty, and "Extreme."

In the end I didn't fall off the world (I'm sure someone is disapointed), but in the mean time watch these flash video things because they're funny and clean (to0 bad the site is kind of hard to use).

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Old Parts: Power Supply

I originally wrote out a long and drawn out article for the uses of dead power supplies, but then I remembered pictures are worth at least two words each. Here's to simplicity. Safety first: I recommend letting the old power supply unit sit around unplugged for about a week. The guts of a power supply contain some crucial capacitors, and for some electrically minded safety conscious people this step is unnecessary. I, for one, am not going to loose sleep over the anticipation of tearing apart old power supplies so I usually wait

Wires - If you're lucky your dead power supply will have a nice long section of 18 AWG wires. You can purchase this wire in rolls for fairly cheep, but it's been my experience that when wire is needed for case mods and such I've never needed rolls of it.

Fan - Usually a boring black 80mm case fan with a weird plug (if any). The ones with the weird plug I like to save for those power supplies that work but lack a good fan. A lot of times the fan is gross and covered in dust. When I was young and new at salvaging old parts I would keep them if they still worked. Now that I'm older, and not pressed for any new 80mm fans, I usually chuck them if they rate high enough on my universal intergalactic scale of yuck. The upside to these fans is they're easily wired into different setups because most of the time they lack a plug anyway. I hate to cut perfectly good 3 pin fan plugs off.

Molex - I like to have some extra Molex power connections around just in case. They can be useful in case mods. The easiest way to remove the Molex connections with a Molex pin remover. If you don't have one I've used a paper clip (someone remind me to update the paper clip tools article).

Switch - With all AT power supplies and some ATX power supplies there will be a switch involved. The AT's switch is easily to find because it's on the end of a long thick black cable. The ATX switch is usually a master power switch on the back of the unit. Both are useful as switches, the ATX one is aesthetically pleasing albeit simple.

Often times bad power supplies are completely useless and have no where to go but the trash. Other times you might find something you’ll need one day. As always, it’s hard to throw away computer parts.

Additional: Quick guide to testing power supplies.

AT - Plug it in and press the big, usually marked, power button.

ATX - To check if it comes on or not all you have to do is connect the green wire (pin 14) and any black wire. Use a little electrical common since/safety when doing that. The other options is pick up a nifty ATX power supply tester (pictured below). The top one is the easier to find Antec tester that can be picked up from just about any computer parts store. The bottom one is a tester we got at work when we ordered a bunch of Powmax power supplies. This tester is surprisingly useful because it has a green or red LED for all the different voltages a power supply puts out.

Star Wars Day

Today is Star Wars day. Today everything is different because of a movie. Some may think I'm speaking metaphorically about the end of the Star Wars story, but I'm not. Today is really different all because of Episode III. My friend and co-worker, John, is off today because he went to the midnight showing. My boss asked me to come in early this morning so that he and his son could go see it. For the first time in a long time the entirety of my normal day has been effected by a movie. I have no problems with this.

Also, this post marks the first time I've done something useful on a Linux install. I've used some Linux Live CD's such as Knoppix to retrieve data from a computer that wouldn't boot, but this is the first time I've successfully installed Linux onto a computer and the did something other than get frustrated and put Windows back on it. I even installed Firefox. I couldn't live without the "ctrl+enter" Firefox offers when typing in an address in the address bar. In all I'm a little proud of myself today too.

For the record, despite what Mr. Lucas says, I believe there will be an Episode VII, VIII, and even IX. Lucas may not direct it, it may have all CGI actors, and it might not happen for another 30 years, but I believe it will happen. When it does I hope we don't have to wait until Episode IX for something decent.

Monday, May 16, 2005

How to Deplicate a Rubik's Cube

Deplicate - Fictitious word that means to render a puzzle unsolvable.

To completely understand the inner workings of deplicating a Rubik's cube, one must first understand how to solve a Rubik's cube. Fortunately, to deplicate a Rubik's cube there is no need know how to solve them.

Generally the deplication of a Rubik's cube requires no tools. Sometimes, especially on newer Rubik's cubes, they can be tight and the use of a flat head screw driver or key is helpful. It is advised to have read through this document before proceeding to deplicate. It is not necessary to have your cube solved before it is deplicated, but for the purposes of this "how to" documentary all of the figures are of a solved Rubik's cube.

To start, turn one face of the Rubik's cube at a 45 degree angle, as shown. At this angle it is easy to pop out one of the center blocks of the angled face. If it is not this is where a flat head screw driver, key, or other small thin sturdy tool comes in handy. Once one of the center blocks has been removed be cautious, for this is also the first step in the disassembly of a Rubik's cube. From here the cube can easily turn into a small pile of colored blocks. Ideally deplication of a Rubik's cube is done on a table or other surface that is free of clutter.

Once the piece is out deplication occurs simply by turning the piece around and placing it back in the hole it came out of, thus transposing the two colors. The deplication, if the cube is unsolved, will go unnoticed to even the experienced cube master. Deplication detection doesn’t generally happen until the third stage of the solving is attempted.

A companion of mine once aided me in creating an animated gif that portrays a deplicated Rubik's cube being solved. I included this to help show why a deplicated Rubik's cube is unsolvable. The final move to solve a rubik's cube requires at least two pieces be in the wrong place. A deplicated cube only leaves one piece wrong and there is no move to fix this.

Deplicated Rubik's Cube

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Analog CD Extraction Device

I dedicate this entry to my homies up in NC, because they're crucial and came up with the name.

The analog CD extraction device is probably the most common tool created from a paper clip (see figure 1's red circle). Most don't realize that when they take the time to make an analog CD extraction device they have also made a make-shift ATX power switch (see figure 1's blue circle). This is a brief description of some useful analog CD extraction device's and other paper clip tools.

figure 1: analog CD extraction device w/ make-shift ATX power switch

Over the years I've created some interesting and some not so interesting variations of the analog CD extraction device. As one can see in figure 2 this is the "Travel analog CD extraction device w/o the make-shift ATX power switch." It lacks the power switch portion of the normal analog CD extraction device due to it's non conductive blue external coating. The blue coating does serve a travel purpose and that is it makes this paper clip stand out over others. I really hate it when I get my analog CD extraction device confused with other tech's analog CD extraction device.

figure 2: travel analog CD extraction device w/o the make-shift ATX power switch

The next figure is a paper clip tool that has nothing to do with CD extraction at all. This is a paper clip tool that was meticulously created with a pair of needle-nose pliers to make the monotonous tasks of bending pins on the Nintendo 72-pin cartridge connector pass quickly and smooth.

figure 3: NES cartridge connector pin bender

Another paper clip tool I made to hold IDE cables in place. In an ideal world, IDE cables are out of the way to allow for better air flow in a computer case. Sometimes that's easier said than done, but this can keep folded up IDE cables well...folded up. It's ten times manlier than using a bobby pin.

figure 4: IDE cable holder

Figure 5 is neither something I made nor a paper clip, but I thought it would be interesting to include a real manufactured analog CD extraction device. This particular model comes with some CD/DVD drives, and I have found in most cases they are too big to be used in any other CD/DVD drive other than the ones that come with. Essentially, they are useless for most analog CD extraction needs, and on top of that they aren't very good ATX power switches either.

figure 5: manufactured analog CD extraction device

These are the paper clip tools I use; I'm sure other people have come up with other/better paper clip tools. I'd love to hear about them so feel free to leave a comment and preferably a picture.

Friday, May 13, 2005

My Reflections on Star Trek

A lot of what I do here in my blog and in my life came from watching Star Trek. I don't consider myself a Trekkie and you'll never see me dressed up with pointy ears, but of all the influences in my life I can think of none better than Star Trek. If anything for the morals and values I've gained.

To me Star Trek is not just a television show. It's not about Klingon's and Romulan's and how the Captain is going to out wit them this time. It's not about warp drive or hand phasers. It's not even about space exploration like the title implies. It may be a bold statement, but I don't think Gene Roddenberry wanted it to be about these things either. It's simply about humanity.

Bizarre that a story that takes place in the future filled with aliens would be about humanity, but when you step back and look at the big picture it makes a lot of since. Roddenberry told us a story about a future where we don't worry about things like war (at least on Earth), hunger, or even money. Economics without money...that's a concept and a half. Even the aliens are humans. They're humans that lack something and in the process of finding it gain something more. Spock put it best in Star Trek VI, "We must have faith that the universe will unfold as it should." Faith? Spock is that logical? I don't think so, but it was Spocks missing link. It was the balance between his Human and Vulcan side. Data, the android from the next generation, turned out to be one of the most human characters of them all. In his search to discover humanity he showed us all what we lack as humans. Simple things like compassion. Data made it so painfully obvious how simple and "logical" it was to do the right thing in out day to day activity it's a wonder we don't all do what's right all the time.

The Trek universe is a nice fantasy, and I believe it is a realistic goal for mankind. Television and movies make it easy to get a point across to others I only hope Roddenberry's message doesn't get lost. I'm disappointed Enterprise will air it's last show this evening. Out of all the Trek series I believe Enterprise was one that really went back to what Star Trek was all about. Deep Space Nine was the soap opera set in space. Voyager was Lost in Space. The Original Series, Next Generation, and Enterprise all had something fundamentally in common; what it is to be human and how we can make the future better together.

Note: In writing this I learned's spell checker knows the word Klingon.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Old Parts: Motherboard

A little part of me dies when good hardware goes bad, so I decided to start a section called Old Parts to share with the world what I do with old computer parts. Hopefully I'll get some creative feedback on what other people do with their old parts. Bad computer components are always complicated. It's not like they explode; to the naked eye they look just like they did when they were new apart from a little dust and the occasional carbon score. Sometimes dead and dying parts are just a good reason to upgrade; other times they bring tears. Like in the case of this motherboard (I refer to Geek Memorabilia #3).

This motherboard is one of many I've had to put down. Despite the emotional attachment I had to it I see no reason to treat it any differently than any other board that has laid down it's life in the line of duty. Once everything has been tested twice and removed, CPU, cards, and memory I get down to business. To your average person all that's left is useless PCB, but to your average uber geek there are still useful components here.

The first of these useful components are jumpers. Unless you're dead motherboard is brand spanking new odds are it will have a jumper or two...surprisingly even the jumperless ones usually have some. Spare jumpers are always good to have around. They can be used on just about anything, and I've lost plenty of jumpers behind the workbench. If you're really picky it's nice to have a variety of jumpers around in case you're the kind of person that likes to have all your jumpers match.

Second on the list of what to take before throwing the motherboard out is the CMOS battery. It's amazing that almost every motherboard ever made has a CR2032 retaining the CMOS settings of your BIOS. Granted it's used, but odds are the battery had been replaced during the life span of the mother board and will likely have much life left in it. CR2032's have an average life span of 5 years. Depending on how the computer was used they can last quite a while. I like to have a little drawer of used CR2032''s ironically next to my jumper drawer.

Newer motherboards have heatsinks and sometimes even fans on their chipsets. These are always good to remove. Heatsinks can be reused on just about anything that generates heat, and who doesn't like to have extra fans around? You can squeeze a 40mm fan in some awkward spots and alleviate hard to fix hot spots in weird case mods. Some motherboards have special parts that are removable. In this case we can remove the plastic retention arms that hold the slot processor in place. The newer Pentium 4 and AMD64 motherboards have removable plastic or metal parts that the heat sink mounts too. These kinds of parts are always useful because you never know when you might get a working motherboard missing some of the parts. Often times they can also be rigged for functions that were never intended.

Finally there is only one thing left to remove. Can you guess what it is? I'll bet not because removing these may sometime require a Dremel or maybe just a flathead screw driver. Never the less you're looking at tools the pull these bad boys off because you got to be some kind of man to pull a Quad Flat Pack off a board with bare hands. Personally I prefer a nice flat head screw driver for everything but the Ball Grid Array style chips (usually north and south bridge chipsets). If I want those I use my Dremel and cut them out taking a square chunk of the PCB with it. I've tried to remove them with a flat head, but they usually break in the process. The next question here is why? Why do you keep those James? To be honest I don't have a good reason yet, but some day I know I'll be able to use all those chips for something extremely geeky. When it happens you better believe I'll post it here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Birthday Blog

9:14 this evening marks one year of using Blogger. I thought I would take a moment to say some nice things about Blogger and Google in general. I chose Blogger because it was part of the Google Tools. Over the years I've learned Google is the Midas touch of the internet. For those of you who dare to attempt to keep up with Google and all the cool things they do I highly recommend their blog (how cool is that, Google has an offical blog). Blogger is just one of the many cool things they do. Gmail, Picasa, Code, and Maps are all just the tip of the iceberg of cool Google toys. Perhaps in the future I'll go into more detail on all of these, but today is my blog's birthday.

I started a blog to practice my writing skills. I'm no real writer, but maybe one day. It is my dream to write articles for magazines like Maximum PC and CPU, or for websites like Tom's Hardware Guide and Arstechnica. I doubt my writing skills are on par with those guys, but everyone has to have goals. I do intend to go back to school for a journalism degree, and maybe by then I'll stand a genuine chance of achieving these goals. Until then, I'll be here throwing out my two cents on the topics I find interesting; waiting for the comments that remind me constructive criticism is a good thing.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Geek Memorabilia #3: Motherboard from Jeff

A long time ago, trading hardware ran rampant between my friends and I. I traded a KVM switch complete with cables for this motherboard. It came with a processor too, and it wasn't just any processor it was a Pentium 3 on a slocket. Not only did it have a rock solid overclock, Jeff had flashed the BIOS so that it would make use of the High Point HPT370 Raid controller. This board was the back bone of my file server for many years before it died. Which leaves me with the task of finding a new HPT370 controller so I can get all my data back. This board served me well I raise my glass high. This one's for you Jeff.

Its been a while since I did a Geek Memorabilia segment so I thought I'd post links to the first two.

Geek Memorabilia #1: Half a Stick of 64MB SDRAM
Geek Memorabilia #2: My First GHz

Next time on my blog: What James does with old motherboards before he throws them out.

Will the Real Steven Hawkings Please Stand Up

It all started when my co-workers, John and Richard, returned from infiltrating the rat's turd nest. John and I go way back to at least the seventeenth century when they used floppies to back up data. Richard remarked that when those rats got back to the hide out it'll be like Goldie Locks went through there. This immediately put the image of an little girl holding an over sized round rat turd and proclaiming, "this rat dung is too hard!" We proceeded to figure out all the variations of that phrase; by far the best is still, "This rat dung is just right." "Someone is sleeping in my rat dung and there she is!"

Neo : What are you trying to tell me? That I can...pirate software?

Morpheus : No, Neo. I'm trying to tell you, that when you're ready... you won't have to...

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Open Source: Classic Gaming

My new found love for Open Source has made it's way into my blog. Today I want to take the time to write about two great Open Source programs related to classic gaming.

First on the list is Exult. Exult is a program that allows "Ultima 7: The Black Gate" and "Ultima 7 Part 2: Serpent Isle" to run on modern hardware and operating systems. Exult still requires the original Ultima 7 files, and the programmers encourage purchasing. Personally, I'm inclined to agree even though the Ultima series is now owned by the evil Electronic Arts instead of the beloved Origin. Exult has made leaps and bounds the past few months in terms of playability. Hard core geeks that have kept their Ultima 7 saved game files on floppies for years will be bumed to learn they'll have to start all over using Exult, but that's a small price to pay to bring back such a classic. Exult is more than just a means to play a great game with a funky memory manager on todays PC's. It's also well on its way to becoming the first useful Ultima 7 editor. The programmers have appropriately dubbed this function Exult Studio. According to the studio FAQ it started as an Ultima 7 map editor and has progressed to the point that anyone can create an entirely original game, albeit with a lot of work. Exult Studio even comes with GIMP plug-in's so that original artwork can be added. Exult Studio still needs a bit of refinement, but fifteen minutes changing the familiar Ultima world will have you thinking about creating your own island add-on that gives the Avatar his own horse drawn Airstream...or maybe that's just me. For those of you trying to remember your way around Britannia, or new to the Ultima world I've found a few useful links. has a great map.
The Bards Library has plenty of mood setting music from U7 and SI.
There are also plenty of
walkthroughs for all parts of both U7 games.

Next on the list of Open Source classic gaming is The Ur-Quan Masters; basically an Open Source remake of Star Control 2. They had to change the name because an organization known as Toys for Bob made the source code of the EDO version of Star Control 2 available, but they did not own the rights to the name "Star Control." Which is fine because, unlike Exult, you don't have to purchase a thing to play. Down side is there are no cut scenes, like the name, those are still owned by someone. The programmers of The Ur-Quan Masters did think ahead and made it so that owners of the original game can easily place the copy righted material into the remake. Like Exult, this Open Source project brings a classic game to modern computers, so it can be enjoyed by older gamers who remember when this was the bleeding edge of technology and younger gamers alike. Granted I played the PC version back in the day, but in all honesty I cannot see the difference between the PC and EDO version of the game. The Ur-Quan Masters is only at version 0.3 of their developmental stage, so it still has some time before the programmers call it an official release. Even still the game is playable in the Super Melee and story line mode. There are no in game settings to play with yet, but there is plenty of documentation that explains how to change things up. There are also remix packs that can be downloaded in case you get tired of the original repetitive music. Just like with Ultima there is plenty of information on the Internet (mostly put there by fans).

There is a SC2 Wiki known as
As usual plenty of
walkthroughs too.

Both of these games were released in the early 90's on 5.25" floppies. Even today they are wonderful games because they gave the player the power of choice and freedom. There aren't many games today that don't make you strictly follow a story or some liner path. Both of these games do have plots and many subplots and if some events are over looked there could be problems, but it was this level of detail that brought replay value to games. Something most modern games lack. There is a lot still to be learned from old games such as Ultima & and Star Control 2, and it has nothing to do with graphics, cool effects, 3D physics and modeling, or even sparely dressed women (Syreens excluded of course).

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Up and coming

My good friend John made a new icon for Thunderbird because on the Mozilla page of free advertisement buttons they didn't have one that matched all the other buttons.

I'll be posting about all new and improved open source gaming such as The Ur-Quan Masters and Exult sometime in the near future. Two classics no one should be without.

Also it was pointed out to me when I wrote about Flickr I never posted a link to them anywhere. Now you'll find links to Flickr in a few spots.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Quick Laugh

Quick entry tonight. I wanted to share a picture that made me laugh...a lot.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Trailer Upgrades

Trailer upgrades progress slowly but smoothly. MVC-550FStage one of the painting project is finished, that would be the refrigerator panels. The long and drawn out stage two, the cabinets around the refrigerator, is underway. I say long and drawn out because I'll probably be painting one cabinet door at a time.

MVC-553FThe other day I got this letter from the IRS and, apparently, it's been bumming me out a little. To cheer me up my girlfriend bought me a new toilet seat to go with the toilet of my dreams. It's all soft and cushiony on my tushiny. I must admit a perfect match the toilet and the new seat, but what excites me just as much as the new seat is what to do with the old one. I'm so thinking case mod!

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Open Source: Firefox

Open Source software is quickly becoming a viable alternative to the average computer user and business. I've decided to use my blog to make note of Open Source software I have found useful.

First on the list of noteworthy Open Source projects is Mozilla's Firefox. Mozilla has a plethora of free programs, but none of them have the pizzazz and flair Firefox sports. Yesterday, at roughly 9am PST, Firefox hit 50 million downloads. Firefox is the only Open Source program to have enough of a following to get a full two-page advertisement in the New York Times. Don't feel bad if you missed it, you can purchase the commemorative poster from the Mozilla Store (I already got mine).

One of the biggest arguments to switch from Internet Explorer to Firefox is that it has better security. In truth it's not that Firefox has better security, it's that Firefox is more secure simply because it's not IE. ActiveX Controllers, only native to IE, are what allows adware and spyware easy access to your computer. An argument against Firefox is that it's Open Source therefore all the code bad guys would need to exploit it is freely available on the web. This is true, but in reality for every bad guy looking for vulnerabilities and exploits in Firefox's code, there are a hundred good guys doing the same thing and putting a preemptive stop to it. On the other hand, Microsoft has to wait until someone finds the hole, then fix it.

Let's give credit where it is really due. Firefox has a lot more to offer web browsing than a little added security. Tab browsing is nothing new to web browsers that stray from the beaten path, but being able to click a link with the center mouse wheel button and have it automatically open in a new tab has got the be this year's hottest web browsing tip. Now I can go to and follow every link quickly, easily, and in a nice orderly tab manor without losing as my focus. It's a little difficult to articulate with text exactly how useful this feature is, so I suggest you try it by opening up Firefox, go to any web page with links, and click a link with your center mouse button (probably your wheel).

Firefox's built in search is also what puts it ahead of IE. Not only does it allow you to search directly from the tool bar, you can even choose your engine. If you don't like the engines that come with it, you can click the "Add Engine..." button and get more. Most likely if there is a search engine on the web, there is a plug in for it in Firefox's toolbar search. Some of the recognizable searches include Google, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay,, and even Wikipedia, CDDB, and IMDB.

A truly renowned idea is plug-in support. Not to say that other web browsers don't have plug-in's. In fact pretty much every browser plug-in out there will have a flavor that works with just about any browser. The difference with Firefox is that, when you go to a web page and you don't have the proper plug-in, with a click of a button Firefox will automatically download and install that plug-in. Usually it can do that without even leaving the page you're on too. So far the only participants are Java, Macromedia, and RealPlayer. Meaning you've still got to manually download and install other plug-in's like Quicktime. The big plus here is that the system is in place and anyone with a browser plug-in can jump on board.

Unfortunately you'll still need IE for Windows Updates and anything else that requires ActiveX controllers. Even still I recommend Firefox for anyone who's into free, easy, and useful. Besides if you don't like it you'll still have a fall back web browser, it's not like you can uninstall IE anyway.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Zoom Thing

I started looking into a service that will allow me to post pictures in my blog without relying on For those of you who don't know, is an old Pentium II that sits here in the Geek Wagon. Because of the Geek Wagon's mobile nature I don't like to be dependent on my own web server for pictures to function in my blog. really serves no other purpose than to give me the experience of playing around with a web server. I learned a lot about how the Internet works with that project.

In any case, there are a lot of options for those of us that need a place to host images. Blogger has one I didn't really look into called Hello. I chose Flickr for a few reasons.

#1. They weren't OS specific.
#2. Maximum PC's Will Smith uses it on his Mac blog, and he's slowly becoming my hero.
#3. They had check boxes dealing with zoom things.
#4. They are the only site in the whole of the Internet that I have ever seen with four options for Gender.

I admit it took a little playing around to master Flickr, but I like how it works. You can put in your blog information and make entry's to your blog from Flickr. For the rest of us that just need an address for our images, don't overlook the "all sizes" button. From there they give you your picture in a variety of thumbnail sizes, and an easy to copy text link of the image so it can easily be inserted into blogs and web pages alike. No more of that "this image hosted by anglefire" crap for me.

Sunday, April 24, 2005


Wiki is a wonderfully interesting thing. Admittedly I don't understand all the ins and outs of how it works, but it's best described strait from as, "The simplest online database that could possibly work." The site also explains, "Wiki is a piece of server software that allows users to freely create and edit Web page content using any Web browser."

With that in mind, sites like become a valuable resource for information. I find myself using it as much as Google, sometimes even over Google. Don't get me wrong, I still believe Google is the internet's Midas touch. At the end of the day it's merely a search engine that lacks the analogue touch and grace of multi-user created articles that can literally cover just about any topic in great detail. Try doing a search on something you know about on and most likely you'll learn something new. Some of my favorite topics include, Ultima, Star Trek, RV, World of Warcraft, and I just found out there is no article for Airstream. Maybe I should though in my two cents.

Wiki can also be used for more detailed projects. A great example of this is the one I found last night called Memory Alpha. After Friday's Enterprise episode I wanted to find out if I remembered my Star Trek history correctly. I was right.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Open Source Legos

My original Lego post was a little premature. The observant Lego fanatic will notice there is no motorcycle on the motorcycle transport. From now on when I put Lego models up for download on my blog I'll be sure they're as close to complete as possible. Here is the new zip file.

The motorcycle wasn't originally included because, believe it or not, it wasn't on the official parts list. There is a voting system that uses to make parts "official." Anyone can send in a part, but if it hasn't received enough votes and an admin review it won't be listed in the official parts list that comes with the program. Anyone can still use any of the parts that have been submitted; they just have to be downloaded from either one at a time or all at once. The site recommends downloading unofficial parts one at a time, as needed. They've even included a search by keyword for those hard to find parts you can't quite put a name on.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Abandon Ship!

Two day's after I donate to Trek United they give up and send me my money back. I am proud that I was very likely the last person to donate. When I went to the website to donate on Saturday they had a posted total of $3,144,137. After my thirty-six bucks the total showed $3,144,173, and that was the closing number on their give up memo.

Childhood Memories

I was shown something cool and new to play with. Open source software never ceases to amaze me, and is the perfect example of how cool free can be. They make cad-like programs for Legos. More accurately, a number of people from different groups make cad-like programs for Legos. To make along story short go here and download this. This is a simple Windows installer of everything you need to create Lego models and render them for images like I made here. I chose a model I remember from my past to start with. The Brickfactory is a great site to find scans of new and old Lego sets. In the spirit of open source I will make all my Lego models available for download (like it will get a lot of traffic). Here is the 6654 - Motorcycle Transport in a zip file with some other stuff.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Blog Changes

Made some changes to the layout of the old blog. Nothing drastic, but things worthy of a note. I changed the blog description and I'm sure everyone will notice the plagiarism. May be making changes to that later. I added a picture of an Airstream. No it's not mine; I took it strait off the Airstream website. Hopefully they won't mind. Also, I changed the link section up a bit by renaming it to "Everyday Links." I did this because these are web pages I go to everyday. The top three are not likely to change. Others, such as Trek United, may come and go as times change. I was very tempted to put a link to I Crap in a Box; by far the funniest blog I've ever stumbled across. I decided against it because it dosn't fit in the the 'everyday' of my "Everyday Links" theme. I did want to make a special note about this blog because of this particual post and it's personal nature.

Plants and Proteins

Recently I thought I'd try my luck at growing plants. I enjoyed carving pumpkins last Halloween, so the only thing I could think to grow was pumpkins. Unfortunately I did my homework on how to grow pumpkins after I had the seeds potted and growing. Pumpkins probably won't stay in a pot. My current theory is to make the pumpkins grow as fast as
possible so that when the vine looks for another spot to root I can span the vine between an indeterminate number of pots. Hopefully, once the vine is spread out among a pot or three, I can keep it pruned so that the vine will produce at least one or two good pumpkins.

I'll wait and see if I have a green thumb or not. If not I'll try my hand at cactus.

Today I also noticed Team Meatsock hit 2,300 work units. That puts our over all rank at 670 out of 37,543.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

New Toilet Adventures

For months now life in the Geek Wagon has been a little harder because the toilet had been acting up. Water would leak from the fresh water line and onto the floor whenever it was flushed. Not enough that it was a problem, or enough it was going to cause any real damage. I let it slide until it became a real problem.

The real problem was when the valve that let fresh water in got stuck open. The only solution then was to shut off the water to the trailer. The next day I learned a lot about RV toilets. Not having running water will give me inspiration to fix things. I learned all about the valve that was broken and probably could have replaced it easily. For just a few dollars more I could buy a whole new toilet, and in reality the job to replace the toilet was no harder (or grosser) than to replace the valve. Then I found the RV toilet of my dreams. I'm 25 now, and never did I think in the whole of my entire life would I be buying a toilet. Much less refer to it as the toilet of my dreams, but when I saw the Dometic Sealand 210 Standard Height model I knew that was the toilet for me.

It was a nasty job, but over all not nearly as bad as I thought. I psychologically prepared for a full 24 hours before removing the old toilet. I was surprised with how standardized all the different brands of all the different components of travel trailers really are. On top of that, how little the basics of it all have changed over the years. A RV toilet from a 1966 Airstream works and mounts just like the one that came with my 1982 Airstream. Then my 2005 dream toilet here mounts exactly the same. That's some incredible engineering that started way back in the early says of the travel trailer.

For the record, anyone in the market for a new RV toilet, I highly recommend Dometic. In reality they're all good brands. The AquaMagic I replaced did last for 20+ years. The ease of installation, and the fact it's one of the few RV toilets made of porcelain, make this a toilet I'd recommend to all my full time RV friends. Also this escapade has tempted me to put "master plumber" on my resume.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Only Myself to Blame

A new found determinism has compelled me to start making entries in my blog again. In part I blame World of Warcraft (WoW) for my lazy streak, but I know it's just me. Recently I've learned there are two dominate sides to my psyche; Geek and Gamer. A good game can totally take over and leave the geek on the sideline. Now that WoW has been out for a few months I find myself looking for new things to do. Not that I'm totally giving up on WoW. In fact here are some links to my character profiles. Notice the distinct naming scheme.


In other news I made my contribution to Trek United today. The idea is, if there are a million viewers willing to donate $36, then they would have enough money to have Paramount make an Enterprise Season 5. The site says that if it doesn't work out they will return all the donations; I figure, worst case scenario, I'm out thirty-six bucks. On the plus side I get to say I was apart of something truly ground breaking and history making. This is the first time there has ever been a fan biased organization that raised millions of dollars for a TV show.
While I'm on TV shows, Red Dwarf Season 5 & 6 came out on DVD here in the states. Naturally I picked those up as soon as I could. Maybe I'm a dork, but nothing pleases me more than getting a new Red Dwarf DVD and placing it on the shelf in numerical order with the rest. Well, it will be another long while before I get that pleasure again. Season 7 & 8 aren't supposed to be released for Region 1 until February of 2006.